Tibet House US

Coordinates: 40°44′14″N 73°59′40″W / 40.73711°N 73.99449°W / 40.73711; -73.99449
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Tibet House US
Tibet House US
Tibet House US is located in New York City
Tibet House US
Location within New York City
Location22 West 15th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan, New York, USA
Coordinates40°44′14″N 73°59′40″W / 40.73711°N 73.99449°W / 40.73711; -73.99449
PresidentRobert A. F. Thurman

Tibet House US (THUS) is a Tibetan cultural preservation and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1987 in New York City by a group of Westerners after the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, expressed his wish to establish a cultural institution to build awareness of Tibetan culture.[1][2][3]

Part of a worldwide network of Tibet Houses, Tibet House US focuses on the promotion and preservation of Tibetan culture, contemporary and traditional knowledge, and cultural expressions through education on philosophy, cognitive or mind science based on the workings of mind and emotions, techniques of mediation and mental transformation, and contemporary and ancient arts and culture. THUS also serves as a meeting place for local Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist community programs and events. These are presented to the public onsite and online via:

  • Lectures, classes, and workshops on mind science,[4][5][6] philosophy and meditation classes,[7][8][9][10] with teachers from many traditions including the Dalai Lama,[11] Deepak Chopra,[12] and psychiatrists and meditation teachers such as Mark Epstein, Joe Loizzo[13] and Sharon Salzberg.[14]
  • A gallery that presents a rotating permanent collection and multiple exhibitions yearly of modern and ancient works from Buddhist cultures including Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Russia.[15][16][17][18][19][20]
  • Museum exhibitions,[21] conferences,[22]
  • Print publications and media productions include online courses, conferences and books.[23] A graphic novel biography of the Dalai Lama, Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet,[24][25] and a quarterly magazine, Drum.[26]
  • Lectures and events for the Tibetan community.[27]
  • A traditional Tibetan shrine room.
  • A lending library of books and videos.
  • Online digital archives.
  • Tours to areas of Buddhist cultural influence.


At the Tibet House inauguration in 1987 the 14th Dalai Lama "stated his wish for a long-term cultural institution to ensure the survival of Tibetan civilization and culture, whatever the political destiny of the six million people of Tibet itself."[1] THUS works to preserve Tibet's intangible culture heritage when it is threatened inside and outside Tibet, and presents a contemporary understanding of the contributions of a minority culture endangered by ever "more assimilationist policies, designed to absorb these minorities into the fold of one Chinese nation," although The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates: "All ethnic groups in the People's Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the ethnic minorities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's ethnic groups. Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited ...and they have the freedom to preserve or change their own folkways and customs."[28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][excessive citations]


In 1959, soon after escaping the Chinese invasion of Tibet to India, the 14th Dalai Lama while addressing a group of fellow refugees stated "The great job ahead of us now is to preserve our religion and culture."[51] In 1987, "a group of Westerners sympathetic to the Tibetan cause," Columbia University professor and THUS President Robert Thurman, the first western Buddhist monk, actor and Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, Richard Gere, and classical composer and THUS Vice President Philip Glass, founded the organization to preserve, protect and present the cultural and religious heritage of Tibet, and give a contemporary understanding of the contributions this endangered culture offers, in the Flatiron district of New York City.[52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59][60] Frances Thargay, while working at the Office of Tibet in New York as Executive Assistant to the Dalai Lama's Representative to the US, Tenzin Tethong, wrote the first draft of Richard Gere's proposal for Tibet House.[61] Managing Director Nena Thurman initiated the annual benefit concert with Glass, and the annual benefit auction. She is also the Executive Chairwoman of the THUS project, Menla Retreat.[62][63]

THUS has collaborated with many different educational and cultural institutions. This includes sponsoring teachings in New York City by the Dalai Lama.[64][65][66][67] The Newark Peace Education Summit, a three-day conference in 2011, focused on the policies and methods used by communities to establish peace. Participants included the Dalai Lama and fellow Nobel Laureates, anti-landmine activist Jody Williams, and Iranian civil rights activist Shirin Ebadi; Cory Booker, Martin Luther King III, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Deepak Chopra, Rabbi Michael Lerner; anthropologist Wade Davis, who shared a stage with representatives of the Navajo, Dene, and Hopi nations; and many other international and local activists.[68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75] The Global Vision Summit was started in 2020. Twenty-one teachers, spiritual leaders, scholars, and students of the 14th Dalai Lama, including Richard Gere, Thupten Jinpa, Richard Davidson, and Daniel Goleman discussed his life and teachings with over 90,000 people worldwide.[76][77] In 2021 the 2nd Annual Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit, “The Power of Compassion,” examined the Dalai Lama's vision and practice of compassion. Participants included Daniel Goleman, Marina Abramović, Jan Willis, Mark Hyman, and Tara Brach.[78] Participants in the 2023 Summit included Daniel Goleman, Thupten Jinpa, Jan Willis, Vandana Shiva, Philippe Goldin,Tenzin Geyche Tethong, Rev. Matthew Fox, Tenzin Priyadarshi and Venerable Thubten Chodron.[79]

Books published by THUS include A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection, "a visual knockout of a book," the accompanying publication for the traveling exhibition In the Realm of the Buddha at the Smithsonian.[80][21][81][82][83] In collaboration with The American Institute of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, Robert Thurman founded and edited the Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences series which includes the complete translation of the "originally Indian Buddhist artistic, scientific, and religious works collected in the Tibetan Tengyur," and associated translations, studies and reference works, including the "Treasury of Buddhist Sciences: Associated Literature" and "Treasury of Indic Sciences" series.[84][85][86]

The Art of Freedom Award, honoring outstanding contributions reflecting THUS' mission, has been presented to author and human rights advocate Eliot Pattison,[87] director Martin Scorsese,[88] and artist Roy Lichtenstein, among others. THUS presented "Transforming Minds: Kyabje Gelek Rimpoche and Friends," with the Allen Ginsberg Estate and Jewel Heart International in 2021.[89][90] The gallery and online exhibition of never before seen images by Ginsberg of Gelek Rimpoche and great masters, Tibetologists, and students exemplified the transformational nature of this time in US history.[91]

Fundraising events include the Tibet House Benefit Auction to Preserve Tibetan Culture and dinner at Christie's, which started in 2002.[92][93][94] The Annual Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall organized by Philip Glass, "one of the longest-running and most renowned live cultural events in New York City," is "rich with monumental figures."[95][96] "A New York institution," held since 1989, the concert and dinner party celebrates Losar, the Tibetan New Year.[97][98] Featured musicians and performers have included Patti Smith, David Bowie, Allen Ginsberg, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Björk, Debbie Harry, Taj Mahal, Paul Simon, Ray Davies, Richie Havens, John Cale, Emmylou Harris, Billy Corgan, Sufjan Stevens, Nawang Khechog, Trey Anastasio, Shawn Colvin, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, David Byrne, Gogol Bordello, Ziggy Marley, FKA Twigs, Annie Lennox, Eddie Vedder, Phoebe Bridgers, Tenzin Choegyal, Bettye LaVette, Dadon, The Flaming Lips, Michael Stipe, Sheryl Crow, Moby, Sigur Rós, Ashley McIsaac, Bright Eyes, Lenny Kaye, Natalie Merchant, Angélique Kidjo, Foday Musa Suso, Caetano Veloso, the Drepung Loseling Monks, Regina Spektor, Pierce Turner, The Scorchio String Quartet, Tenzin Kunsel, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew, Stephen Colbert, New Order, Allison Russell, Arooj Aftab, Brittany Howard, Eddie Vedder, and many others.[99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112] boygenius featuring Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus premiered two songs from their new album at the 2023 benefit.[113][114]

Opening 2021's online, live stream 34th benefit, the Dalai Lama sent a video message of congratulation and thanks to Tibet House US, Bob and Nena Thurman, and those who started Tibet House in New York. He also thanked Sogpo (Mongolian) Wangyal, the late Geshe Wangyal, Thurman's teacher, for also contributing to advocating Tibetan Buddhism among Americans.[115][116]

After Keanu Reeves appeared in the virtual 35th year benefit concert reciting the Beat Poem "Pull My Daisy" in 2022, social media users in China suggested a boycott of his films.[117][118][119] "Despite his past close collaboration with its film authorities and decades of mega-stardom spanning the length of the country’s engagement with Hollywood," due to backlash from Chinese nationalists over his appearance in support of THUS, his films have "reportedly been scrubbed from China streaming platforms such as Tencent Video, Youku and Migu Video."[120][121][122]


THUS collects and displays diverse examples of Tibetan sacred, fine, and folk arts, with the hope to ultimately repatriate them to a National Museum in Tibet. Since the Chinese communist occupation of Tibet beginning in 1949, the majority of these artworks and Buddhist manuscripts were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and to a much lesser degree by the Younghusband Expedition, a temporary invasion of Tibet by the British, part of the ongoing "Great Game," and by archaeological looting.[123][124][125][126]

The Repatriation Collection and the Old Tibet Photographic Archive were founded in 1992. The Old Tibet Photographic Archive started with the gift of missionary Marion Grant Griebenow's over 3,000 images and journal writings from Tibet in 1928–1949, and contains work by photographers Hugh Richardson, Heinrich Harrer, Fosco Maraini, David McDonald, and Lt. J. R. Weir; photographs from the Tokan Tada collection from the Toyo Bunko Library in Tokyo, Japan, taken in Central Tibet, Amdo, and Sikkim in the 1920s, and images from the A.T. Steele Collection.[127][128] The Repatriation Collection consists of over 1500 thangkas, bronzes, ritual objects, and folk art. These archives document the destruction of over 6000 monasteries, temples, historic buildings, and the contents that were pillaged; "The monasteries, however, were not only centers of scholasticism (although that was certainly the hallmark of Drepung, Sera and Ganden). They were also centers for the study of painting, sculpture, embroidery, music, dance, chant and ritual. They were the repositories of the treasures of Tibetan art and the libraries of the vast Tibetan literature."[129][130][131]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, Marylin Rhie and Robert Thurman, essay by David Jackson, co-published with the Rubin Museum, Harry N. Abrams Co., 1991, ISBN 9780810963870
  • Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment, Denise P. Leidy, Robert Thurman., first edition published with Asia Society and Shambhala Publications, thereafter Overlook Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0500280188
  • Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, Marylin Rhie and Robert Thurman, co-published with Harry N. Abrams Co., 1991 – 1998 in English, German, Spanish, Catalan, Japanese, and Chinese; 2000, ISBN 0810939851
  • The Tibetan Wheel of Existence, Jacqueline Dunnington, 2000, ISBN 978-0967011530
  • Visions of Tibet: Outer, Inner, Secret, photographs by Brian Kistler, introduction by Robert Thurman, ed. Thomas Yarnell, Overlook Duckworth, 2005, ISBN 978-1585677412
  • Vanishing Tibet, Catherine Steinmann and Danny Conant, 2008, ISBN 978-1590200957
  • A Shrine For Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection, Marylin Rhie & Robert Thurman, Overlook Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1590203101
  • Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet, graphic novel, William Meyers, Robert Thurman, Michael G. Burbank, initiated artistically by Rabkar Wangchuk, art a team effort of five artists coordinated by Steve Buccellato and Michael Burbank, ISBN 978-1941312032

Translations and scholarly works[edit]

  • The Treasury of Buddhist Sciences, series, editors, Robert Thurman, Thomas Yarnall and The Treasury of Indic Sciences, series, editors Robert Thurman, Gary Tubb and Thomas Yarnall, co-published with the American Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Columbia University Center for Buddhist Studies; Columbia University Press:
  • Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature, Lozang Jamspal, et al., 2004, ISBN 978-0-9753734-0-8
  • Kalacakra Tantra: Chapter on the Individual, Vesna Wallace, 2004, ISBN 978-0-9753734-1-5
  • Nagarjuna’s Reason Sixty, Joseph Loizzo, et al., 2007, ISBN 978-0-9753734-2-2
  • Kalacakra Tantra: The Sadhana Chapter, Vesna Wallace, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9753734-4-6
  • Tsong Khapa’s Extremely Brilliant Lamp, Robert Thurman, 2010, ISBN 978-1-935011-00-2
  • The Range of the Bodhisattva, Lozang Jamspal, 2010, ISBN 978-1-935011-07-1
  • Consciousness, Knowledge, and Ignorance, Bina Gupta, 2011, ISBN 978-1-935011-03-3

With Hay House[edit]

  • My Appeal to the World, 14th Dalai Lama, Sofia Stril-Rever, compiler, Robert Thurman, foreword, 2015, ISBN 978-0967011561
  • The Dalai Lama and the King Demon: Tracking a Triple Murder Mystery Through the Mists of Time, Raimondo Bultrini, 2013, ISBN 978-0967011523
  • A Drop from the Marvelous Ocean of History, Lelung Tulku Rinpoche XI, 2013, ISBN 978-0967011592


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


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